Joy is a Choice Purposefully Made

There’s a difference between joy and happiness. But what that difference is, is difficult to definitively define. For every person who says joy is an underlying truth that good or bad circumstances can't dictate, and happiness is rooted in circumstance, there will be others who think the opposite.

Despite the different perspectives, the idea that holds greater sway today is that happiness depends on external factors to exist. Happiness happens to us. Even though we may seek it, desire it, pursue it, etc., feeling happiness is not a choice we make.

Joy, on the other hand, is a choice purposefully made. Joy is an attitude of the heart and spirit, present inside of us as an untapped reservoir of potential.

It's possible to feel joy in difficult times. Joy doesn’t need a smile in order to exist, although it does feels better with one. Joy can share its space with other emotions – sadness, shame or anger. Happiness can't.

Happiness is not present in darkness and difficulty. Joy never leaves it. Joy undergirds our spirits; it brings to life peace and contentment.

Joy requires a connection. Often the connection is with other people, but it can also be with pets, creation, creativity, etc. Joy is present. In the moment. Happiness mostly just passes through.

A girl in a yellow dress sits in a swing
Two girls smiling

Understanding the Difference Between Joy and Happiness

When happiness is present, it is larger than life. Nothing seems better or worthy of attention. But happiness is also fickle. It can be present for weeks on end and gone in an instant. Joy is constant.

Understanding the differences between joy and happiness has a greater purpose than being fodder for an intellectual debate. The distinctions between joy and happiness have a real-world application, particularly for children living in poverty.

Poverty is often synonymous with despair. A heavy word, but also a word with a bark worse than it's bite.

Despair is like happiness in that it's temporary, although it never feels that way. Despair is a product of circumstance, and it can't hold a candle to joy. Joy can overcome anything and everything in this world, if it's allowed. If it's chosen.

With joy, there is hope. With joy, hardship offers growth and opportunity. With joy, self-esteem and self-respect are indestructible.

Boys smiling while they have water

Help Others Experience Joy and Happiness

Please pray that the children on this page who are waiting for sponsors will reject the lie that joy is not possible for them. Pray that they will experience joy in its fullest sense. Pray that these children choose and are filled with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.

Please also consider sponsoring one of the children. The choice to sponsor a child is a choice for joy. For yourself and for the child.

May you know the joy of committing and contributing to the spiritual, physical and emotional growth and development of a child in poverty.
A quote from Frederick Buechner about compassion, peace and joy.

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The Difference Between Joy and Happiness

What is joy? And what is the difference between joy and happiness?

  • Joy is a little word. Happiness is a bigger word.
  • Joy is in the heart. Happiness is on the face.
  • Joy exists. Happiness reacts.
  • Joy runs deep and overflows, while happiness hugs hello.
  • Joy embraces peace and contentment, waiting to be discovered. Happiness comes and goes blithely along its way.
  • Joy is profound and Scriptural. "Don't worry, rejoice." Happiness is a balm. "Don't worry, be happy."
  • Joy is an inner feeling. Happiness is an outward expression.
  • Joy endures hardship and trials and connects with meaning and purpose.
  • Joy is of the soul. Happiness is of the moment.
  • Joy is a choice, a practice and a behavior. It's deliberate and intentional.
  • One realizes she is joyful. One is aware he is happy.

The difference between joy and happiness resides in the mind and heart. Choose joy. Practice joy. Know joy. Live joy. Feel happiness.

The Difference Between Joy and Happiness - Compassion International